"There is a point we must keep in mind, which is not to give homicide preference over abduction.”
The speaker is Australian Detective Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte - "Bony," to his friends. Bony has been sent to the town of Mitford to investigate the disappearance of four nearly-newborn baby boys, snatched from their carriages and their cribs. Now, a fifth baby has disappeared - and this time, the baby's mother has been murdered. Bony knows that the killer, of course, must be found and caught - but he cannot allow the murder to take precedence over solving the disappearance of the infants. To put it more succinctly, Murder Must Wait. And that is the title of the 1953 classic by Arthur Upfield which is the subject of today's audio review on the Classic Mysteries podcast. You can listen to the full review by clicking here.
Bony - who inherits his talents and abilities from both his white father and Aborigine mother - is proud of the fact that he has never failed to "finalize" a case. But he also realizes that he knows very little about babies, or about how they are raised, or about why these babies are being taken. There are no ransom demands - the babies apparently are taken in such a way that nobody sees anything or knows anything.
So Bony needs some help - and he finds it in the person of First Constable Alice McGorr, a remarkable character, and I think you'll find her a memorable one. Together, Bony and Alice must figure out what really happened to those infants - and, only then, discover who murdered the mother of that fifth baby. I suspect that many readers will be both shocked and deeply moved.
It's a beautiful story, and there are wonderful passages describing some Aboriginal rituals that are truly haunting. I have been a fan of Upfield and of Bony for a long time, and I think this is one of the best books in the series - certainly it shows Bony at his most human and appealing.
Now the bad news: Murder Must Wait, like so many of Upfield's other works, is out of print. If you follow the above links to Amazon, you'll find that Audible has made an audio version of the book available; there are also a reasonable number of used print copies floating around among Amazon's online retailers. As always, the first place to check, if you are fortunate enough to have a mystery bookstore, is with that store to see if they can get it for you.
Because murder plays only a minor part in this story, taking a back seat to another crime, I am submitting it to the My Reader's Block Vintage Mystery Bingo challenge to fill a square on the Bingo card calling for "one book that features a crime other than murder." If you're not taking part in the challenge - well, the year is still young; plenty of time for you to visit the blog and join the challenge!
It's always very welcome when a new noir author gets translated in Finnish. Malcolm MacKay's short novel The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter came pretty quickly out in here: it was published originally in 2013 and the translation came out just in the beginning of this year (under the title Lewis Winterin on kuoltava).
MacKay's book is about a hired killer, Calum McLean, who's almost autistically meticulous in his methods. The book is also about his target, a small-time drug dealer whose name is given out in the title. He leads a boring life with a younger woman who still wants to party and drink all night. There's lots of intriguing melancholy here.
The first half of the book is quite good. MacKay writes short, somewhat repetitive sentences, and their rhythm grabs you. But then after the target's been hit, the novel bogs down for some reason or another, even though there's a surprise twist and an open ending that comes as a bit of a shock. I can recommend the book, though it wasn't totally satisfactory.
For me it's always interesting to see how very well known books were first marketed before they reached their legendary status. Take this book (advertised in the Feb 15, 1930 issue of The Saturday Review of Literature) now a permanent part of American pop culture, for example:
|(Click to enlarge and read the fine print)|
I think only the most diehard fan knows that Hammett was once an operative with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Sam Spade was also billed a "shyster detective" and a "Don Juan", apparently traits that Knopf thought would sell the book. I won't comment further on the last portion of Spade's description.
As a librarian at a research university, I am lucky enough to attend the American Library Association’s conferences once or twice each year. These gatherings of thousands upon thousands of librarians from all kinds of libraries are a major market for publishers and resellers of all types of books, as you can imagine. One thing they do to entice librarians is to give us lots and lots of free books, mostly prepublication copies. What could be better than free books before anyone else gets to read them?
My last few times at the conference, I have collected more and more of these books. It started when I got a few young adult and children’s books for my nieces and nephew. Once I started collecting those, I saw more and more titles that I thought they might enjoy. I love a good young adult read myself. Then I started perusing the adult books from many of the same publishers. There are so many interesting new novels by authors from all over the world. Would this new title be a breakout hit? I’d have to read it and decide for myself. So I saddled myself with at least a dozen paperbound prepublication copies to lug home on the plane.
At the conference in January 2014, I broke down and took all my collected loot to the convenient temporary post office set up as part of the conference, mailing the books home. Once I started this, there was no stopping. I mailed another box to myself each day the book exhibits were open, and still ended up with a dozen more books in my suitcase. My nieces and nephew have piles of fresh reading material and I have dozens for myself. You may be wondering, when will I actually read all of these? Even though I’m a fast reader, it will take a while. I have to give up on some if they are just not working for me. However, that disappointment is more than made up for by the thrill of finding a great book and then being able to pass it on to a carefully selected reader friend, hoping that they will enjoy it as I did. This is the librarian art of reader’s advisory, which I don’t practice in my day-to-day work so it’s even sweeter to be able to do it for my friends and family.
I did pick up a few mystery and thriller titles at the conference. So far, I have enjoyed Dominion by C. J. Sansom, well-known author of the Matthew Shardlake mysteries set during the reign of Henry VIII. Dominion is an alternate history set in the Britain of 1952, if the UK had surrendered to Germany in 1940. Germany has a tight grip on the UK, with plenty of SS, Gestapo, and other Germans stationed there. The Russian Front has become an ongoing guerilla war. The British Resistance, led by an aging Winston Churchill, is smuggling a scientist out of the country, and German agents, working with the British government, aren’t far behind. I am fascinated by Britain during World War II, possibly fueled by watching Foyle’s War on TV and reading Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis, time travel stories that take place during the Battle of Britain. Sansom’s novel is an extension of that stressful time period, adding elements of cold war spyplay, in which the British are pushed further and further outside their comfort zone by the Third Reich. Fans of 20th century alternate history as well as cold war spy dramas will enjoy this one.
Gwen Gregory is is the resource acquisition and management librarian at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She reads books the way many people watch TV.
Welcome to Murder In March Madness. I will highlight one title with the word Murder, or a variant, in it each day all during the month of March. Today we are on day number nine of this event and I will highlight the last Miss Marple Mystery by Agatha Christie titled Sleeping Murder published posthumously in 1976.
Sleeping Murder (1976)
Miss Marple's Last Case
Miss Marple's Last Case
Written by Agatha Christie (1890-1976)
Soon after Gwenda moved into her new home, odd things started to happen. Despite her best efforts to modernize the house, she only succeeded in dredging up its past. Worse, she felt an irrational sense of terror every time she climbed the stairs. In fear, Gwenda turned to Miss Marple to exorciseher ghosts. Between them, they were to solve a“perfect” crime committed many years before.
Gwenda and Giles Reed, young newlyweds fresh from New Zealand, come to Giles native England looking for their first home. Gwenda is immediately captivated by a Victorian villa known as Hillside, but after she moves in, strange feelings of deja vu grip the young bride. Has she been here before? Is the house haunted? And who is the woman she can see lying strangled in the front hall? Gwenda and Giles embark on an investigation to clear up the alleged murder of Gwenda's stepmother and put to rest her eerie feelings that her own father may have been the killer. As memories of past events flash through her mind, she and and her husband chase a trail of clues involving letters from abroad, a retired doctor, a former housemaid, a jilted boyfriend, and a mysteriously torn tennis net. Miss Marple is at the peak of her powers as she helps the couple unravel the clues and see clearly what is right before them.
Collins Crime Club
Dodd, Mead and Company
ISBN 396 07373
Welcome to the fourth and final day of Berniepalooza!
Today’s special price for THE BURGLAR WHO COUNTED THE SPOONS is just $5.99, good only today (March 9). Tomorrow it goes back up to the regular price, so now’s your chance to save a few bucks!
Today’s we have more Qs and As from The Man Himself about everyone’s favorite gentleman burglar. In case you missed them, be sure to take a look at Bernie’s recipe, The Bernie Quiz, and the first set of Q&As.
Is Barnegat Books based on a real store? Is Ray based on a real cop? Is Carolyn based on a real dog washer? Is Raffles based on a real cat?
Barnegat Books is the store I’d have if I had a store like that. Which, all things considered, I’m deeply grateful I don’t, but it remains an alluring fantasy. Ray’s a complete fabrication; he happened right there on the page in the very first book, BURGLARS CAN’T BE CHOOSERS. And yet a couple of cops who’ve read the books tell me they’ve known guys just like him.
Carolyn, like the bookstore, turned up in the third book, THE BURGLAR WHO LIKED TO QUOTE KIPLING, and I’ve always felt that’s when the series achieved self-actualization and figured out what it was. At the time, I’d become good friends with several gay women, and it struck me that a lesbian would be in ideal best friend for our hero, providing sexual difference without the possibility of sexual tension. He’s a guy, she’s a gal, and they’re not gonna fall in love or get all sweaty, and it works. Carolyn herself probably amounts to an unconscious synthesis of three of those women, but she’s herself, and she and Bernie play so well together that I have to be careful to rein them in.
As for Raffles, he’s not based on a real cat. He is a real cat—who, unfortunately, has no corporeal existence outside the books.
Bernie and Carolyn–and even Ray in his own way–are infinitely curious. Are you similarly inquisitive?
So asketh the Grand Inquisitor herself, eh? I dunno. I suppose I am. The world is a fascinating place. It’s a hostile environment, to be sure, and it’s out to kill us all for no particular reason, but in the meantime there’s a lot to look at and sift through.
A story about a giant alien dinosaur rampaging through Washington D.C.? I'd read that. I don't know if that's actually one of the stories in this issue, but if it's not, it should have been. What I do know is that inside there are stories by Henry Kuttner (two, in fact, one of them in collaboration with Arthur K. Barnes), Oscar J. Friend, Ward Hawkins, Robert Moore Williams, Don Tracy, and